thanksgiving turkey

There are many traditional Thanksgiving dishes that are highlights of the meal — the stars of the show that everyone looks forward to as the holiday season approaches. There are also, however, plenty of duds that no one really wants to see maybe ever, but definitely not on Thanksgiving. It’s basically a food holiday, after all, and the Thanksgiving table is not the place for lackluster dishes, or side dishes thrown together as an after thought.

If you’re planning to serve any of these dishes that may or may not be hits (we’re leaning toward not, but everyone is different), you definitely need to know about it beforehand. These are the Thanksgiving dishes that no one wants to see on your holiday table.

Ambrosia salad

Ambrosia salad

Ambrosia salad can hardly even be classified as a salad, and honestly deserves no place on your Thanksgiving table. This mixture of marshmallows, whipped topping, canned fruit (or occasionally fresh), and sometimes nuts, coconut, spices, or maraschino cherries, is a gummy mess of flavors that, if it belongs anywhere, belongs on your dessert table. It just doesn’t go with the rest of the flavors you’re serving and is way, way too sweet. If you do serve it, be prepared to end up with a mountain of leftovers.

Wild rice stuffing

As Kaitlin Steinberg from the Houston Press noted, wild rice stuffing is basically the worst kind of stuffing. Dried fruit, sage, thyme, sautéed veggies, sausage, and the like don’t all taste exactly right with rice. And not only that, but wild rice tastes more ‘health food’ than Thanksgiving. It doesn’t pair well with gravy, because the rice won’t soak it up like bread-based stuffing will. It’s basically like bird seed. Skip it, you and all of your guests will be glad that you did.

A green salad

No one wants to eat a green salad on Thanksgiving, of all days. There’s room for green vegetables on your Thanksgiving table (not everything has to be drowning in butter and cream — although we do love a good green bean casserole), but make them thoughtfully chosen sides instead of a boring green salad that you eat any number of nights the rest of the year. Green beans, peas, Brussels sprouts, plenty of herbs, all are good choices for Thanksgiving. Regular old lettuce is not welcome here.

Boiled veggies

Boiling is just not a good vegetable cooking method. The vegetables end up mushy and tasteless, when vegetables should have a little bit more interest. They should have some texture and flavor. The reason that no one loves boiled Brussels sprouts? Because they’re boiled. Treat your veggies nicely, cook them appropriately, season them well, and they won’t be the last thing on everybody’s plates.

Corn pudding

Corn pudding is a lackluster addition to the Thanksgiving table. Sure, it’s fine on another night — and can even make your regular old Sunday dinner feel a little bit more special — but not on Thanksgiving. November corn is never very good. You’re stuck either using not-so-great out of season corn or, alternatively, using frozen or canned corn. None of those ingredients will result in an exciting or especially tasty corn pudding. Corn pudding is a wasted vessel of starch and fat that would better be delivered in the form of homemade mac and cheese on Thanksgiving day.

Oyster stuffing

Oyster stuffing is just not delicious. The briny flavor of oysters is delicious, but for Thanksgiving (and as a side to that glorious turkey) it should get a pass. You’re better off skipping it because oyster stuffing at Thanksgiving is a recipe for disappointment. USA Today even called it "strange-smelling, fake-stuffing stuff." If you insist on oyster stuffing, at least also serve another stuffing that everyone else will enjoy. Otherwise, be prepared for angry guests and lots and lots of leftovers. You’ve been warned.

Cranberry sauce

What? I know. It sounds blasphemous to say that you shouldn’t serve cranberry sauce of any kind at Thanksgiving, but let’s face facts here: cranberry sauce is one of the least-loved dishes on your Thanksgiving table. It may go quite well with everything else you’ll be eating that day, but it’s often one of the very last dishes still on the table when all is said and done. Then you have to come up with a way to use up all of that cranberry sauce that no one ate. If your guests won’t eat it, you just don’t need to serve it.

Creamed onions

Creamed onions are not good and are no one’s Thanksgiving day highlight. If your family eats them every year because of tradition, you have our permission to tell them that they’re not on the menu anymore. I’m not exactly sure why or when people thought this was a good idea, but it’s just not. The onions are drowning in cream sauce and it’s all beige. Not exactly a good combination. You want your veggie sides to break up the bland colors of the rest of the plate and this one just misses the mark.

Giblet gravy

You can make your best-ever gravy without using the giblets (aka organs) that come packaged separately inside of your turkey. To be honest, most people are not going to love the idea of chopped up organ meat bobbing in their gravy and there’s really no need to use it. Instead, make an exceptionally flavorful turkey stock before Thanksgiving to add to your pan drippings and the like in order to make your gravy. If you use turkey pieces like wings and necks — and simmer it long enough — the stock should be jelled somewhat when chilled. Do that, and you’ll never go back to giblets again.

Tofurkey

Just don’t do it. Tofurkey is, if you’re unaware, basically a molded and stuffed tofu. You absolutely should not serve this on Thanksgiving. If you’re a vegetarian or will be hosting vegetarians at Thanksgiving, it’s understandable that you might not want to go all-in on a traditional turkey. You’re better off making a stellar vegetable-forward dish that really celebrates the holiday and the season — and that people will actually look forward to eating — instead of molding and shaping a bunch of tofu. No one wants to eat that.

A store-bought veggie tray

A regular store-bought veggie tray is out of place at Thanksgiving. Sad raw veggies and a store-bought tub of mediocre (at best) ranch dressing is going to minimize the appeal of the entirety of the appetizer spread. If you’re going to bring veggies and dip for Thanksgiving, at least put some effort in to make it a little bit tastier and more interesting. We’re actually pro-appetizers at Thanksgiving (because otherwise everyone gets crabby), but given that Thanksgiving is all about food, the least you can do is make your veggie tray good enough to fit in with the rest of the dishes on your table.

Anything that doesn’t "go" with the rest of the menu

Our number one rule of Thanksgiving dinner is never serve anything that doesn’t complement the rest of the flavors on the table. Chicken and rice, pasta, and the like are all delicious and are wonderful potluck dishes, but they just don’t belong at Thanksgiving. If you’re worried that guests will come armed with dishes that won’t meld with the rest of your menu, gently suggest items for them to bring rather than letting them bring whatever they’d like. They might even be grateful that all that have to do is make the food, not comb through endless recipe archives to decide what they’re going to bring.